"Once you are free of credit card debt, apply that money to retirement savings the same way as the emergency fund savings ... automatically," advises Botkin. Set up another paycheck deduction that goes straight to an IRA, 401(k) or pension account.
Botkin says that any windfall (tax refund, bonus, etc.) or extra money found from cutting expenses or paying off a car, credit card or mortgage, should be deposited in retirement accounts as early in the year as possible, instead of waiting until December to make a contribution. The earlier and the more you deposit, the more the magic of compound interest adds to your balance.
5. Establish guards against scams
"Be vigilant in protecting your personal information from scammers," says Botkin. "I advise keeping tabs on your credit report monthly for a fee (instead of the free service once per year, or even every three months) via a reputable credit report monitoring service."
Taking a few minutes to address these tasks may also help protect you:
- Install a pass code on your phone to protect your personal information should the phone get lost or stolen.
- Tear up and shred any pre-approved credit applications you get in the mail.
- Check every bill or statement for unauthorized charges and fees.
- Never click on any links in emails from financial institutions. Always call the institution or log-on to your account directly.
- Never give out your personal information in public or on a public computer.